PolitiFact goes to the dogs

PolitiFact, supposedly devoted to helping you find the truth in politics, addressed the story about Barack Obama eating a dog, quoting from his book, Dreams from My Father:

With Lolo, I learned how to eat small green chili peppers raw with dinner (plenty of rice), and, away from the dinner table, I was introduced to dog meat (tough), snake meat (tougher), and roasted grasshopper (crunchy).

Although the heart of PolitiFact is the Truth-O-Meter, which they use to rate factual claims. author Louis Jacobson assigned no rating to the seemingly straightforward question of whether Obama ate dog.

In an age of social media, PolitiFact heard complaints via Twitter. Their first response: “We’re not suggesting Obama disputes he ate dog meat in Indonesia. He doesn’t, that we’ve seen. We’re just publishing what he wrote about it.” It would be more accurate to call this a non-response, as it avoids the question of why there is no Truth-O-Meter rating for the claim, as opposed to putting the claim “in context.”

PolitiFact tried again: “Other subjects of “In Context” — Ted Nugent, Hilary Rosen, [and] Rick Santorum.” However, Nugent’s comment was a vague statement about the future, which is not susceptible to fact-checking. Likewise, Santorum’s comments about Satan’s agenda seem faith-based (unless PolitiFact is suggesting they have some way of checking in with the Prince of Darkness). And PolitiFact’s refusal to rate Hilary Rosen’s comment that Ann Romney “never worked a day in her life” merely helped Rosen (and by extension, Democrats generally) wriggle away from the controversy over what is seen as a widespread attitude among the Left toward stay-at-home moms.

More significantly, PolitiFact’s responses ignore their much more relevant track record in this particular area. For example, PolitiFact rated the story about the Romneys transporting the family dog on the roof of their car as “Mostly True.” And PolitiFact rated the story about former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee frying squirrels in a popcorn popper simply “True.”

Thus, it is apparent when it comes to stories about Republican presidential candidates eating unusual animals or arguably stressing a dog, PolitiFact has its Truth-O-Meter at the ready. When a Democrat president’s book contains the admission he ate dog, PolitiFact cannot find its Truth-O-Meter. When Obama is the subject, PolitiFact’ s “heart” simply disappears, even when the problem is made apparent to them by public complaint.

That this supposed Ministry of Truth is biased is not exactly news. A prior study by the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs found PolitiFact harbored a large bias against Republicans. But their double-standard is usually not so obvious and easily exposed.